Catheters and Tubes

Catheters and Tubes


IV: An IV is a small, flexible plastic tube that goes into one of the veins, usually in an arm or leg. Although it sucks to have to poke a child to start an IV, especially if they’ve already been poked several times, an IV allows the team to give your child medications or fluids directly into the blood stream.

Feeding Tube: Most kids in the PICU will have a tube put into their nose that goes down into their stomach. If the tube ends in the stomach it’s called a “nasogastric” (naso=nose, gastric=stomach) or “NG” tube. In this location, the tube can be used to suck stuff out of the stomach, or to put formula and medications into it. Sometimes, however, the tube will be pushed even further, past the other end of the stomach (called the “pyloris”) and into the first part of the intestine. This location is used for feeding or for giving medications, and goes by many names such as “transpyloric” tube (across the pyloris), “TP” tube (for transpyloric), or “nasoduodenal”/”ND” tube (naso=nose, duodenal=first part of intestine).

Central Line: A central line is a special IV that is bigger in diameter and length. It’s called a “central” line because it goes into one of the large veins near the center of the body, usually in either the neck or the groin. It can be important because it allows the team to give certain medications that can’t go through a regular IV, and/or give them faster if necessary. It’s also less likely to fall out because it is longer and gets sewn into place.

PICC Line: “PICC” stands for “peripherally inserted central catheter.” It’s sort of a combination of an IV and a central line because it starts in one of the small veins in an arm or leg, but is very long and ends in one of the centrally located large veins.

Arterial Line: Arteries are blood vessels that take blood away from the heart, out to the body. Sometimes, it’s important to know how much oxygen is in the blood so that we can know how much oxygen is being taken out to the body. An arterial line allows us to draw blood and measure different components of the blood, like oxygen and carbon dioxide. It also allows us to measure your child’s blood pressure continuously, as opposed to using a blood pressure cuff every couple of minutes, so that we can know immediately if there are any sudden changes.

Breathing Tube: Technically known as an “Endotracheal Tube” or “ET tube,” this tube is placed into the mouth and down into the windpipe in order to help get air directly in and out of the lungs. Placing a breathing tube into the airway is called an “intubation,” and removing it is called an “extubation.”

Foley Catheter: This catheter is a rubber tube that is placed into the bladder in order to drain urine.

Chest Tube: Sometimes air or fluid can collect in the space between the ribcage and the lungs, and if there is enough air or fluid there it can end up squishing the lungs. Obviously, a squished lung will make it hard for your child to breath and get enough oxygen, so if that occurs the air or fluid will need to be removed. A chest tube is inserted between two of the ribs and pushed in to the chest cavity in order to drain the air or fluid. Another instance when your child might have a chest tube is after having chest or heart surgery, in which case the tube is usually placed as a precaution so that it can drain fluid before it has a chance to accumulate.